AUSTIN, Texas — If you’re getting on a plane anytime soon, traveling during a pandemic doesn’t look quite like it did before.
Special precautions are now in place at airports across the country, including at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“It is safe – as safe as we can make it – in these challenging times for everybody,” said Ignacio Reyes, stakeholder relations manager for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). “There is no impact to security screening or operations. We are staffed, so come and fly and we want you to feel safe.”
Before heading to the airport, don’t forget a face-covering – it’s required once you get there and several airlines require them while onboard.
KVUE walked through security with Steve Dikkeboom, a supervisory officer for the TSA at Austin’s airport.
“The first thing that [travelers] should know is that when they come through our queue to go through the screening, they will be maintaining some social distancing guidelines,” Dikkeboom said. “With our summer traveling, the numbers are rising so it’s hard to predict how many people we are going to have in the queue.”
When you’re going through security at AUS, red tape on the floor marks every six feet of distance to maintain physical distancing between other travelers.
“We’re not going to penalize anybody as far as TSA – that’s not our job at the checkpoint. All we’re trying to do is maintain the personal responsibility that you’re looking out for their safety and our officers’ safety,” Dikkeboom said.
TSA will let you wear a mask while going through, but you’ll have to pull it down when a screening officer checks your identification.
Contact has also been minimized between travelers and screening officers. Plexiglass was installed to separate the officer who checks the ID from the passenger.
The TSA is also now allowing flyers to bring larger bottles of hand sanitizer through airport security. Usually, liquids can only be 3.4 ounces to clear the security screening, but for the time being, each flyer can bring a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.
“Same rules will still apply as if you’re traveling normally, nothing’s really changed, but we’re trying to limit the contact our officers have with your property so we’re not handling too much of your things,” Dikkeboom said.
All checkpoints are open at the airport and are cleaned regularly.
Since May, six TSA officers at Austin’s airport have tested positive for the coronavirus. Employees who have come in contact with them were asked to quarantine.
According to the TSA, as of July 2, 899 federal employees have tested positive for COVID-19, 589 have recovered and five have died.
“Help us out. Wear your mask,” Reyes said.
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